Sunday 25 June 2023

The Omnipotence of God

Is God all powerful or not? If he is why does he not intervene in human affairs more or even at all? If he is not can he really be considered a proper God (capital G type God)? I understand the arguments on both sides but would like to offer my take which potentially reconciles them. Here we go.

Let's start with the basic argument in favour of a supreme Creator, the One without a second from whom all things derive. This is an intellectual argument which is fine though it is not the point from which I would personally start. That would be intuitive or from the point of direct knowing. This, however, cannot be shared and could be seen as open to error through wishful thinking or some other kind of mental/emotional distortion. When all is said and done, we take the subjective route in matters of belief but in sharing our beliefs an objective stance, as in one deriving from reason and logic, is usually more persuasive. So, here is the classic argument in favour of God. 

Everything that exists has a cause but there must ultimately be something that is the cause of everything else, a causeless cause, or the process could not get started. Something has to kick everything else off and be the ground from which everything else grows. No uncaused first cause means no nothing. Literally. There cannot be anything but there cannot be nothing either as nothing implies an absence but there can't be absence unless there is presence to begin with. What would there be if there wasn't anything? Don't go there!

This something cannot be reliant on anything else or it would be an effect and therefore not the first cause. It must be absolutely self-sufficient. It cannot be limited because there is nothing that could limit it, everything else deriving from it itself and subordinate to it. Not being limitable means it is all-powerful. It is (is not has) Being-Consciousness or timeless Awareness, existing in total self-sufficiency on a formless level, form being something that comes about along with time and space as the structure for creation. It must be Being-Consciousness because otherwise there could be neither being nor consciousness deriving from it.

Properly trained theologians could develop this train of thought more thoroughly and they have done so. The point I wish to make here though is that this line of thought affirms the omnipotence of God given that he is the cause, ground, root, source and fountainhead of everything else. He is the Creator and this universe is his creation. He can change any part of it at any moment by a thought. Or, at least, he could do that if he had not renounced some of his power. And this is precisely what he has done.

In creating individual creatures with free will God has given up power. He must do this or we could not have free will. If he could intervene as and when he felt like it our free will would be a mockery, something that could go so far but no further. Conditional free will is not properly free. It is true that the rules of the universe which God has set up do not allow for unlimited expression of free will. If it is exercised against creation there will be consequences, call it karma, reaping what you sow or whatever. But that is a different thing. There may be consequences of free will exercised in the wrong way but our freedom in itself is still sacrosanct, never overridden.

God gives part of his creation, maybe all of his creation eventually, free will for two reasons. The first is love. For love really to be it must be free. Constrained love, necessary love, automatic love? It makes no sense. Only creatures with free will can love and only they can be loved in the highest, most rewarding sense. 

The second reason is that this makes creation more interesting for God. If his creatures start creating themselves that will make creation come alive for God. That may sound naive, absurd even, but think of a universe endlessly expanding from within, one that is dynamic, free, without regular or predictable pattern, with a bit of grit in it that makes pearls. That is so much more creatively exciting than a clockwork universe. Human free will is like the little lack of balance that can take creation in intriguing and unpredictable new directions. You might think that nothing is unpredictable to God but even if he sees everything at one time it is still new to him as he sees it. If it doesn't come directly from him then even if he sees it before it happens from our limited perspective, it is still new to him.

Human freedom can be bad as well as good. Giving us free will is a huge risk. If we exercise this will in accordance with the laws of God and creation then the sky's the limit but if we go against those laws then we become creatively destructive. It's not hard to see what the tendency is at the moment and it may be that there is a fail safe device installed in creation that will not let the process go too far. Myth and religious tradition tell us that is exactly what has happened in the past. But for God the potential gain is worth the risk because a universe without freedom would be a semi-dead universe. 

Here then is my conclusion. God, or the creative Mind behind everything, is omnipotent but he renounces some of his power to give it to us in the form of free will.

Now, this leads on to an important point. In the past human beings have accepted the omnipotence of God and this has often led to varying degrees of fatalism. We just have to accept God's will. But what if God wants partners rather than servants? Partners who can work with him in making creation more magnificent instead of workers whose only function is to maintain it. This means that we have to accept our power and use it wisely. As potential co-creators we are called to work with God but not for him. Certainly, we work according to the laws of creation and under the overall headship of God, with life rather than against it, so our work is loving cooperation as opposed to individualism. (A core spiritual teaching is be individual but not individualistic). But God gave us power so that we could exercise it and work alongside him. This is where we are now and where the changes in consciousness that have come about over the last few centuries should be taking us. At the moment our heightened sense of individuality has brought more evil than good as it is working out on the material plane. But as we evolve it may be that it will begin to transfer itself, in some of us anyway, to the spiritual plane and then God's transference of power to mankind will start to bear good fruit.


cae said...

Wow! Absolutely spot on, in my opinion, William! In this post, you have concisely and perfectly articulated years of my own scattered musings on the nature of God's Omnipotence and the way It/He 'relates' to humans as co-creators!

This is why I feel so strongly that, as the world spins more and more into 'end times' chaos, we can only expect the second coming of Christ, if we actively pray for it -

- not necessarily in specifically "Revelations" terms, but perhaps merely beseeching God to have mercy on His Earthly children and send Heavenly Powers to put an end to the 'rulership' of the reigning Evils (the "powers and principalities" delineated by Paul).

Valentin Tomberg, in "Meditations on the Tarot", expresses the idea that we are 'meant to' pray for God's intervention in the world, as in fact, He 'can' only intervene here by means of our prayers for Him to do so.

Thanks for another really great post!

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Carol. I think it is important to recognise something that is less emphasised in traditional Christianity, namely that God wants us to work with him in creation though in line with his laws, of course. This makes us more than just passive servants or even slaves as in some other religions and confirms the value of the individual which is often denied in other religions but is fundamental to Christianity.

Lady Mermaid said...

Great post William. I second Carol's comments. I used to wonder why we prayed since God already knows our requests. Was praying just a way of "nagging" God? However, I now see that prayer is part of becoming a co-creator w/ God. We're not just passive bystanders but active participants.

The debate of God's omnipotence reminded me a riddle someone had asked when I was in Christian elementary school. The riddle was to name something God has never seen even though He sees everything. The answer was that God has never seen Himself. He couldn't create an already incorruptible world b/c He would be duplicating Himself if that makes sense. Any part of creation is subject to decay and corruption as shown in Lord of the Rings: the elves, dwarves, hobbits, and humans all fell in their own ways since they were created beings and not God Himself. This is why Christ is essential as He is unable to become corrupted.

The parable of the wheat and tares gives a good illustration about the nature of evil. The tares were not planted by God. However, if He pulled them out right now the wheat would be harmed. For reasons we don't yet fully understand, God ending evil right now would cause damage. However, it's up to us to align w/ God to root out evil. Perhaps this is why God doesn't unilaterally end it right now. He wants us to fully participate in overcoming evil ourselves.

William Wildblood said...

Excellent comment, Lady Mermaid. It could be said that just as a good drama needs an element of danger to be interesting so creation must have the possibility of evil to become actively good. It's important to point out that this does not in any way justify actual evil which is always bad but means that for the freedom to be good to exist the freedom not to be must also exist.